The Construction of Identities in Narrative Interviews—A Methodological Suggestion from Relational Network Theory

Stefan Bernhard


In this contribution, I propose a methodology for combining studies of situated constructions of identity in everyday conversations (small stories) and in narrative research interviews (big stories) drawing on Harrison C. WHITE's relational network theory and his concept of identity. Identities are constituted through relational positionings on local, typed, trajectoral or personalized levels. In narrative interviews narrators construct interactive identities in the interview situation (i.e. on a local level) by telling big stories about their life courses. Using a text passage from a narrative interview I demonstrate how autobiographic big stories are composed out of sets of nested small stories that contain identity positionings on different levels. I conclude that both sides—of the debate on small vs. big stories as well as WHITE's framework can profit from one another. Narrative interviews may provide important information on the dynamic constructions of the identities WHITE investigates. And WHITE's identity theory may reveal potential avenues of collaboration for big and small story research.



narrative interview; positioning theory; relational sociology; biographical research; network analysis; Harrison C. White; identity; small stories


Copyright (c) 2014 Stefan Bernhard

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